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Issue 2

December 2019

Your Musical Christmas Dinner!

The Infamous Hoax

The Invention of Plastic

A hot take on the best Christmas songs to play at the big dinner

The origins of Santa Claus. Is he really just PR for Coca-Cola?

How Plastic conquered our world in 50 years


Welcome to the most festive issue The Blue Compass has ever had! With a healthy mix of articles that get you into the festive spirit and articles that students felt passionately about, this edition is one to pick up and read over your holiday break. From everyone here at The Blue Compass we wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year! And we hope you enjoy this new issue of The Blue Compass. Co-Editors In Chief,

Joris and Emily


Development aid: Is it harming or helping Africa? Fareda Johnson

Every year, for many years (since the colonial era), money from all around the world is transferred, from the taxpayer’s pocket, to the government and from there to underdeveloped countries. The intention of the money is to increase the economic, environmental and political state of the country the aid is given to or can also be thought of as development aid. The continent currently receiving most aid is Africa. There is a large controversy over foreign aid. There is the claim that foreign aid develops infrastructure (buildings, hospitals, schools), agriculture and technology and therefore is helping Africa. However, there is a counterclaim that aid is harming Africa as it is stimulating inefficiency within governments and it does not lead to an increase in wealth or economic development. There are those that see development aid like this: Africa is undeniably poor and ‘we’ are indisputably richer so if we donate some of our wealth to them, Africa benefits right? One of the people with this view is the International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander MP writes: It is morally correct to help our global neighbours free themselves from the shackles

of extreme poverty. He goes on to say: “The international community can really make a difference in Africa” He acknowledges that this already is being done, shown the fact that healthcare and education is free in many African countries because of aid. Douglas’ opinion could be considered the socially accepted view on aid however there are many experts that are more skeptical on the benefits of aid. International development aid researcher Jonathon Glennie says this is not a one-sided thing. Glennie claims that "By constantly focusing on aid, we are letting developed country governments off the hook on these issues, all of which are more important for poverty reduction and democracy in Africa” Journalist Andrew Mwenda points out that the $600 billion given to Africa in aid over the past four decades has resulted in zero growth. This, he says, is because aid is, "antithetical to growth. Amongst the experts who believe that development aid to Africa is counterproductive is Dambisa Moyo. Her book ‘dead aid’ is one of the most controversial works about aid. Controversial for the fact that there was an African criticising the development aid given to Africa. She believes that aid is the source of conflict and corruption. If the aid flow is cut, while help from China continues then economies will boom and there will be good governance. It is very difficult to come up with a conclusive answer to the question, is aid harming or helping Africa? Hopefully this article has given you an idea of how you would answer this question.


“Cinema and Worldwide Audiovisual Entertainment” Scorsese’s Critical Look at Hollywood Joris Jansen

“I’ve tried to watch a few of them and that they’re not for me, that they seem to me to be closer to theme parks than they are to movies as I’ve known and loved them throughout my life, and that in the end, I don’t think they’re cinema.” This quote was legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese’s opinion of Marvel movies as he explained in a recent article published in the New York Times. In this article Scorsese paints a somber image of current day Hollywood, a place that is full of franchises, reboots and sequels without any artistic vision or character. A place where he believes the filmmaker as artist cannot find a home.

Even though I enjoy both Marvel movies and artistically expressive films, Scorsese’s words do resonate. Although both types of movie are enjoyable in their own right, they satisfy completely different audiences and purposes. It is like comparing newspapers and tabloids or literature and pulp. Blockbuster franchise movies (such as the aforementioned Marvel movies) all follow the same formula, or as Scorsese put it:


“They are sequels in name but they are remakes in spirit, and everything in them is officially sanctioned because it can’t really be any other way. That’s the nature of modern film franchises: market-researched, audience-tested, vetted, modified, re-vetted and remodified until they’re ready for consumption.” This is not necessarily bad; these movies are enjoyable to watch in a similar way that people enjoy adventure parks. They are funny, exciting and spectacular. But problems arise when people regard these movies as if they are something they’re not: a work of art. With Black Panther receiving an Oscar nomination in 2019 and Disney submitting 13 Marvel actors for Oscar considerations in 2020, we see this misconception growing. The result is that Blockbuster franchises flood mainstream theatres and more and more independent theatres are forced to close their doors. Cinema is finally being regarded as a true art form by the masses and therefore it becomes increasingly important that we make distinctions in what we consider cinema and what is not cinema. This is a distinction that is already present in some forms. When comparing best picture winning movies and the biggest movies at the box office every year, you will find very little overlap. But without this distinction being clear to the masses confusion and discontent can often arise. Take the recently released film Joker as an example, a movie that uses the story of arguably the most recognizable comic book villain of all time, but aims to become something more than just another comic book movie. This left critics and audiences alike divided. Most

likely due to the broad audience it managed to attract, from critics to blockbuster fanatics, everyone came to see this movie. One could hail it for its phenomenal acting and filmmaking, another might dislike it for not being the blockbuster they expected, and a third party might believe the movie tries to be more than it actually is. In his New York Times article, Scorsese describes this distinction as: “The situation, sadly, is that we now have two separate fields: There’s worldwide audiovisual entertainment, and there’s cinema. They still overlap from time to time, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. And I fear that the financial dominance of one is being used to marginalize and even belittle the existence of the other.” There would be merit to differentiating between the failsafe blockbusters, which are known to do well worldwide, and the commercially riskier, yet artistically more meaningful ventures. This would allow for commercially viable distribution channels of the latter, giving the more artistically made films a way to reach their audience and get a message across, without being grouped into the same category as commercial cinema. Just like we consider newspapers and tabloids or literature and pulp, we should look at movies and decide on their artistic values. Without doing this, not only will we stop seeing independent film makers shine and receive bigger budgets but increasing confusion and controversy around award shows will also be found. Without such distinctions, Cinema as a bold and daring artform will cease to exist.


Your Musical Christmas Dinner! Jelle Biemans

perfect song to play in the background to receive your guests and sets a high bar for the rest of the night. It is also a very safe song to start with. You do not want to give your guests the idea that they can request weird songs. This song will prove to them that you are worthy of selecting the Christmas music, making your guests too insecure to ask for a song.

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ince Christmas is just around the corner, it is important to have your Christmas playlist ready for the big dinner. That playlist can serve as your Lord and Saviour when another awkward silence strikes the dinner table. From quietly mumbling the melody of “Jingle Bell Rock” to hitting all the high notes in “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, Christmas songs are an integral part of the holiday experience. However, it is a fine art to select the right music in the right order. All the pressure from the last 11 months comes down to just those few days. Many things can go wrong when “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” starts playing after another suggestive comment from your weird uncle. But worry you not, I am here to give you all the information you need to craft the perfect Christmas playlist. This is a Christmas song top 7, complemented with an expert’s description of when to play the song. The list is in chronological order from the guest reception to the final goodbyes. 1) Sleigh Ride - The Ronettes “Sleigh Ride” is the exact amount of chirpy upbeat you need to get your guests in the Christmas spirit. It hooks you in with that classic tune and a raspy voice. This is the

2) Felix Navidad - Jose Feliciano A little bit of Spanish never hurt anyone. “Felix Navidad” is known to inspire bilingualism around the dinner table (true fact), boosting your previously meaningless conversation to an intellectual discussion. It gets you at ‘Feliz Navidad’ and never lets you go. It follows that chirpy beat from “Sleigh Ride” and adds its own individual touch. It is the perfect song to break the ice with to those family members you have not seen in too long. 3) Santa Claus Is Coming to Town Frank Sinatra With “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” the teambuilding kicks off. The fact that you are related does not mean you all get along. Tensions can rise at the dinner table, sending everyone on edge. This is the song to change that. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” is the musical embodiment of an office teambuilding day, but its magic does not stop in the office. Soon the whole family is singing along to this catchy chorus. 4) It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas - Michael Bublé Right when “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” kicks in, the ice should have already turned liquid. This is the moment the reminiscing to the good ol’ days start. It is a song that can make everyone a bit emotional, the exact emotion you need for some nostalgia.


Michael Bublé’s rendition of the song builds the bridge between the 20th and 21st century. With a voice straight from the 50s and a modern swing, it appeals to all generations. 5) Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas - Judy Garland After everyone is in touch with their emotional side, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” starts playing. It will almost seem too perfectly timed, the way that these songs will align. For extra kudos in the family, this song is an excellent background song for an emotional speech, reminding everyone about the meaning of Christmas. This speech-song combination will have you set as the favourite person in your family for the whole year. But be warned, there are many versions of this ancient song. Do not be fooled by the more popular version by Frank Sinatra. Even though that version is beyond adequate, it would not have made the list. Judy Garland, the original singer of the song, is what makes it special. It’s that same raspy voice from the Ronettes that makes it beautiful. 6) The Little Drummer Boy - Bing Crosby Now that the reminiscing has kicked off, an old classic song is the perfect next step. “The Little Drummer Boy” expands on every “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” has created. However, this also means that it is the elderly’s time to shine. This song will take them back to their youth. And if you are lucky, they mind tell you a mischievous story about their past that you can hold over their heads later. 7) You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch Tyler the Creator After the elders have had their turn, it is time for some modern influence. Christmas is a dynamic holiday. After all, Jesus Christ was only born once and not twice and still we have two days of Christmas. Tyler the Creator blew new life into ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ from Dr. Seuss, and that needs some attention. Tyler the Creator is known for his controversial

lyrics, so it was unexpected to see him release music for the Grinch soundtrack. However, he absolutely nailed it. The song appeals to all ages where Dr. Seuss rhyme is mixed with modern hip hop, all in good Christmas spirit.

Some bonus advice: What not to put in your playlist! • Last Christmas - Wham! This nagging song brings back all the horrible things from the 80s. And honestly, how hard is it to pronounce the word ‘’gave”. •

All I Want for Christmas Is You Mariah Carey If there is anything you don’t want from a Christmas song is to be insulted. ‘I don’t want a lot for Christmas… All I want for Christmas is you,’ might be the best hidden insult, but once you hear it, it stings. It is the most overplayed Christmas song. Every year I hope we are finally over it, but no. It just keeps coming back like the common cold virus. • Santa Tell me - Ariana Grande Christmas is about beliefs and values. Something that is completely absent in ‘Santa Tell Me’ by Ariana Grande. In the song she completely misses any Christmas vibes and it seems like just another love song. It is a cheap shot at easy money by combining her fanbase with Christmas music listeners, and I do not accept it.

Now that you have all the do’s and don’ts for your musical Christmas dinner, I am confident you will be your grandparents’ favourite child. As Mr. Claus famously puts it “merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”


Is Santa Really Just PR for Coca Cola? Emily Bérubé-Palsbøll

s it is now Christmas season, everywhere we look left and right, the face of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus is staring us in the face with his warm yet somehow judgemental stare. However, something you may have not considered is he became this famous? Did someone really see Santa Claus? Having interest since I was a child into the existence of Santa Claus, and then (SPOILER) later only being confronted with that fact that he was, in fact, a fictional character made to please children. This did not sit well with me: where did he come from? Well, after reading about a conspiracy theory which I believe that people with the same inclination to have this question answered will be somewhat satisfied with.

So, did Coca Cola invent our modernday Santa Claus? The simple answer is, no. Santa Claus was created over centuries, with the influence of the tale of St. Nicholas, combined with literary references depicting what has now compiled into a round, bearded, rosy-cheeked man wearing red and white.


However, why red and white?

However convenient this colour scheme may be for Coca Cola, Claus had don red and white garbs much earlier than Coca Cola. However, Coca Cola has only used this coincidence to their benefit, making Santa Claus their mascot during Christmas time. That’s some pretty good marketing! This all stemmed from the 1930’s, when Coca Cola wanted to increase their wintertime revenue, as obviously, during the cold season, not everyone craves an ice-cold Coke! Therefore, they took it upon themselves to utilize Santa’s need for a break during his busy night of delivering presents in an advertisement made by Haddon Sundblom.

Referring to my source, Coca Cola sales increase by 10.3% during the holidays, and their revenue exceeds that of turkeys and mince pies (coming from a British source). This marketing tactic which has been cultivating now over centuries has created an association between Coca Cola and Santa Claus. The rise of 10% may seem pretty small, however, to provide a better picture, that is a rise of £100 million (“Coca-Cola Is a £185m Seasonal Sales Winner). That’s a lot of money! Sure, the modern-day image of Santa cannot purely be credited to Coca Cola, however, they made sure to use all classic Santa elements in their favour during the holiday season, to get us all in the mood for a can of Coke. I hope you keep all of this in mind next time you buy a Coca Cola this Christmas season.


Diets: What Difference Do They Make? Sanne van den Biggelaar

n today’s world, diets have become a large trend. Every magazine you pick up or website you open will tell you some new technique that will make you healthier, happier, skinnier or stronger. Of course, it isn’t a bad thing to watch what you eat, a balanced diet is prescribed by most doctors as the first step to a healthy life. But how easy is it really, how can we be careful with what we eat when we have no idea where our food comes from? Or if we don’t know what it’s made of? The food we eat feeds our body, allowing us to function and go about our daily lives. It gives us energy and nutrition and keeps us healthy. However, this is only true when we choose the right foods. Our choices clearly affect our health, along with affecting the world around us. The choices we make need to be made more carefully.

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The meals we eat as a human are more diverse than that of any other organism on Earth. This is due to the manufacturing of food that humanity has perfected throughout the years, with our tastes evolving as food changes. The human race started out with hunters and gatherers, people who relied heavily on their surroundings entirely when it came to food. Throughout the years, we have learnt to grow food which we want, then to trade this food so anyone, anywhere, can try delicacies from around the globe. As science evolved, so has our understanding of what we eat, allowing us to manipulate foods or synthesise them. For a society so obsessed with healthy living and natural lifestyles, we seem heavily reliant on processed foods. Processed food is, by definition, an item of food which has undergone a series of chemical or mechanical operations as a way of changing or preserving it. Generally, anything with more than one item on the list of ingredients is processed, or anything boxed or packaged. This definition describes most foods found in your nearest grocery store and probably a lot of the food you have at home. Not all processed food is bad, these can be nutritious and are easy to prepare, efficient and effective as a way of fulfilling one’s daily needs. The world around us is promoting many options for our meals, with advertisements everywhere


and special deals on items we don’t even need. The low prices and bright colours influence our choices, marketing methods which cause us to forget about nutrition and just buy everything that entices us. Doing this goes against every idea of healthy eating, as foods which end up in our pantries often involve snacks and sweets. Cutting candy and sugar out of your diet completely isn’t necessary, however keeping in mind that there are healthier options, and actually swapping out sugar for fruit once in a while already makes a huge difference. Fast food is another example of common and unhealthy eating, consuming food of which the origins are unknown, and which don’t fulfil your needs for very long, leaving you hungry again shortly after. The general Dutch population doesn’t even know what frikandellen are made of and yet, we continue to eat them. The food we eat has both positive and negative effects on not only us, but our environment too. Crops are being grown worldwide to feed us, starting monocultures, which is when a single type of crop is grown in an area. This disrupts the natural habitat of the animals in the area, with only one type of food to feed on. This, in turn, lowers the diversity of nature in the world around us. Animals are kept as a source of food too, and these are rarely treated as well as they should be, with nowhere near enough space to roam around, which causes stress and tension in creatures we have bred to obtain food.

Why should we watch what we eat? What differences can we make? By picking healthier options, you create a healthier mind and body for yourself. Watching what you eat can benefit you immensely if done correctly. This means to look for the best option in stores, picking the animal friendly options and going for fruit and vegetables instead of sugary snacks. If everyone does this, it creates a healthier earth, a better planet for us and every generation to come. It isn’t much, but it’s a start. You don’t have to cut out junkfood altogether, but every time you pick up an apple instead of a bag of crisps, your body will thank you.


Plastic: it’s history and how it conquered the world Arseniy Pavlov

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e see it, we use it, yet we rarely acknowledge it. It is strange to think that only 40 or 50 years ago, you would not be able to see any plastic being used commercially. For example, the water bottle only reached the markets in the early 1950’s, the plastic bag was introduced in the United States as late as 1979, etc. With the rising crisis of pollution around the world, it is relevant to know where this impasse originated, and perhaps knowing the origin of the problem can provide for an intelligent solution in the future. In 1862, at the International Exhibition, a world’s fair in London, a man by the name of Alexander Parkes presented a material that had interesting and useful properties: if heated, it could be moulded into any desirable shape and would remain in that shape when cooled back down. Parkesite, as it was called, was the ancestor to modern day plastics.

Roughly at the same time, in Albany, New York, John Hyatt read about an offer in a local newspaper from a billiards company. The enterprise was offering ten thousand dollars to a person smart enough to invent a substitute for ivory billiard balls. Hyatt experimented with many materials, and after some time found a practical and simple method to produce plastic, by mixing nitrocellulose, camphor (a tree resin) and alcohol under pressure. In 1870, with the help of his brother, he successfully patented this new material as a “celluloid” (meaning cellulose like), making this the first case of commercially produced plastic, ever. As for the billiard balls, Hyatt did create a plastic substitute, but every time they collided, they made a noise similar to a shotgun. One saloon proprietor even said that he “did not care so much about it, but that instantly every man in the room pulled his gun.


The real revolution came in 1909, when Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland created the first fully synthetic plastic, named after himself, Bakelite. Like all of its predecessors, Bakelite had the useful properties of being malleable and durable, but this invention allowed for the material to be produced without needing natural materials: making it easy and affordable. Bakelite played a big impact with its release on the market: everything from poker chips to lamps to radios could be made out of it. But its most valuable use was in fashion: because of its low production cost, plastic jewellery was a very popular substitute to the more high-end ivory or marble ornaments. This discovery kickstarted the plastic epidemic and led to many other synthesized materials being produced (cling wrap, Styrofoam). Soon, plastics began to replace every other material on the market. Large and fragile paper bags became compact and strong. Milk started to be put in plastic bottles instead of glass jugs, and cars turned from heavy metal machines into light and elegant automobiles. This was revolutionary and a great success, but people did not bother to look into the future and how this plastic might hurt us. But why is plastic bad? As mentioned before, the substance is commercially produced by combining two synthetics. But as useful as that is, synthetics don’t decompose. It only takes 4 to 6 weeks for a paper bag to decompose, while it can take upwards of 1000 years for a plastic one. Burning them isn’t an option either, as it is too costly and the combustion produces toxic gases. Other plastics, for example,

ones that were treated with chlorine can seriously poison the surrounding ecosystem and the animals living in it if the produce is left to lie on the ground. Additionally, because production soared in the past 70 years, plastic items were being utilized without the intention of being reused. An investigation by UK newspaper Independent showed that over 40% of the plastics we buy are used once and then thrown away. What's even worse is how much of the plastic gets thrown away. Statistics show that since the 1950’s the world has, in total, produced 9.2 billion tons of plastic. Of that figure, 6.9 billion have become waste. However, 6.3 billion of the waste never even made it back to the recycler! This was the reason for the formation of huge, untreated, garbage dumps, on land as well as in the sea. The picture on the left shows one such dump. This is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It is the largest amount of rubbish in the sea in one area. A grand total of 1.8 trillion individual plastic pieces were estimated to be floating here, with the total mass at an approximated 80,000 tons. This is worrying. With such high demand for the product and its versatility, yet no way of removing it from our lives, it seems impossible to solve this problem. But something needs to be done. Perhaps substituting plastic products and reducing our consumption of plastic goods. And even better: reducing the production of plastics altogether: there is already plenty. If action isn’t taken now, we will never live to see how global warming will make humanity drown in water, because we would have drowned in plastic instead.


Political Prisoners in Catalonia Silvia Ortega van Oostrom

(Photo by PAU BARRENA/AFP via Getty Images)

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am sure you have heard about political prisoners in Catalonia on the news, but to what extent did you actually understand the situation? Well, I am going to try to explain this to you as simple as I can. The purpose of this article is to inform and question the occurrence of this matter, and I will do my best not to be biased, as a Spanish citizen myself. I hope you enjoy reading it!

Is the right to selfdetermination universal? In order to understand the complicated situation in Catalonia it is important to understand how and why the conflict started. Catalonia has always felt more developed than the rest of Spain, this is because of their advanced industrial and educational development. Since a long time ago, Catalonia has balanced the economical organization in Spain in some ways, contributing with more economic resources and taxes than other autonomous communities of the country. Consequently, citizens from this autonomous community have developed certain self-

confidence in their way of considering how Catalonia should be managed. This selfconfidence grew into the belief of not needing Spain anymore to flourish as a region. Having their own language, Catalan, and a stable political, judicial and economical system only created more loyalty for this region. Therefore, it was not surprising when political parties started introducing the call for independence. What Catalan independents were (and still are) trying to fight for is the right of selfdetermination towards independency. This doesn’t mean necessarily that they want to be independent from Spain, but they do want the right to be able to choose whether to be independent or not. It is crucial to understand this concept: selfdetermination is not equal to independence. However, this is not always understood, specially by the Spanish government, that appears to consider that Catalonia (or any province in Spain) is not able or ‘mature’ enough to have the right of choosing to be independent. As a consequence, the Spanish state through its government in Madrid guides every autonomous community according to the national interest. Nevertheless, this situation might come across a bit too drastic. This is why many people, especially in Catalonia, are against it and defend the freedom of vote for independence. Still, this raises a new question in a democracy:


Does the right to selfdetermination need the approval from the rest of the country? Let's suppose that Spain allows Catalonia to decide whether they want to leave Spain or not. Should only Catalonia be allowed to vote? Or should the rest of Spain also form part of this important decision? This is a big ethical problem. Which option is more democratic? Honestly, I don’t know, and neither does the Spanish government. There are many arguments supporting both statements which can lead into an endless debate. This is why the state acted in the fastest and ‘easiest’ way possible, banning the right to vote it. You might think that there is a big lack of organization. How is this possible? Aren’t there laws that could judicially solve this problem? Well, there are not. There are no laws regarding this topic, not even the Spanish Constitution states anything about it. This is because it was not predicted; a part of the country wanting to leave was not supposed to happen. Catalonia realised this and asked for a law (in the beginning of 2017) that would define and allow this vote. However, at the time Spain was not stable due to the financial crisis, and apart from needing Catalonia economically, the development of a new law with so many aspects were too time consuming. If you think about it, what would happen with the currency? Would Catalonia form part of the European Union? Would the separation be automatic, or would they need a transition period? Spain was scared this law would be the beginning of their independence, therefore they denied it. Nonetheless, this denial only motivated Catalonia to dislike the Spanish state even more and decided to make their own law; the law of transience. It was approved by the Catalan parliament without Spain’s permission. This

law stated that a referendum was allowed in Catalonia in order to ask the Catalonian population if they wanted to be independent or not. However, this was illegal according to Spanish law, and the Spanish government ordered Catalan politics to stop the law. At this point, Catalonia did not feel like they were a part of Spain and decided to disobey with the purpose of making a change. Catalan politics started getting a reputation of rebellion and sedition. The law was officially announced on September of 2017 and executed on the first of October of the same year. That day, all adults from Catalonia voted. The only way the Spanish state thought of preventing this was sending troops of policemen to Catalonia to tell them to stop voting and forbid the use of ballot boxes, and if they refused, the police was ordered to use violence against Catalan citizens. This referendum ended up not being well organised: the votes were not controlled, and the ballot boxes were not well guarded. In the end, the results turned out positive for the defenders of independence. However, by that time, the Spanish supreme court started sentencing all the Catalan politicians to jail for rebellion (this was in 2017). With great part of the politicians in provisional prison, waiting to be sentenced, and the president of Catalonia gone, Catalonia had no resources left to fight and had no other option than to abide. It is important to bring up all the violence that happened and the many people that ended up in hospitals because they wanted to vote. Catalonian citizens were now scared. The situation came to a close in October of 2019, when all the political prisoners had their sentence stated. The sentences varied from 3 to 13 years in prison. In my opinion, Spain should listen to Catalonia and make them want to stay in the country, instead of prohibiting and punishing them for wanting to have the right to vote for independence. However, the illegal acts of Catalonia are questionable. What do you think?


The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Danger of Observational Bias and Why we Keep Electing Idiots. Alexander Hook

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ing ring! Rinngggggg! *smash*. Wakey wakey! As the pain center in your grumpy brain struggles to make sense of what your nervous system is relaying - something about shards belonging to murdered alarm-clock debris stabbing at your feet - you waddle over to open the curtains. Sun! Rise and shine. Oh. It’s grey, and bloody raining! You trudge zombie-fashion through to where you think your bathroom is. Some millennia later you complete your morning ritual and scurry over into the living room and plop onto the couch. It’s time to switch on the television! A mug of morning tea in your left hand and TV remote in your right, you fumble to switch for the correct channel of your favorite news source. Your foggy brain is in

tow, eager and ready to absorb this session’s sacred information parceled in 60 Hz, through the caricature of the newscaster on your flat screen. This isn’t The Sun, or Fox News. Pfff no no, this news channel is the real deal. Unbiased just like me. For sure, no doubt about it! Dear reader, this exaggeration serves to illustrate a point: our protagonist here is experiencing their life in terms of their perspective and knowledge base. Monetary greed and a lust for power are incentives that greatly influence the schemes and choices employed by politicians and institutions. This may seem an obvious fact to you, though I’d like to further sell the idea that a ‘knowledge bubble’ argument


can serve to justify why we’ve been making poor choices at a sociopolitical level. For an external observer, such as an alien, the means of Donald Trump’s election and the processions of Brexit seem to defy common sense. We pride ourselves as beings of rational thought, but our recent decisions may suggest otherwise, for we have been adopting a backward trajectory in some respects; this is assuming that goals such as those outlined by the UNDP constitute our objectives as a species. So what this ‘knowledge bubble’, and how does it influence the shaping of society? The ‘knowledge bubble’ the idea that incomplete information is a culprit that serves to cause an observational bias in the general population. Everybody is predisposed in terms of their knowledge base. This predisposition is what justifies the use of the term ‘knowledge bubble’. One’s knowledge base is the sum total of all the bits and mental relationships in the brain; it consists of mental pursuits and other stored information derived as a result of experiences, vicarious or otherwise. A paradox lies in the notion of true objectivity; if one were completely unbiased, one is still biased. Bias is inherent in all truths - an oxymoron in and of itself and assertions. This is because information, whether you like it or not, gets doctored through a perspective. There is no knowledge without the effects of semantics taking root. When coming into contact with information, there is a feedback loop in place: perspectives influence how

information is comprehended, thus adding to our knowledge base. This in turn affects our perspective, and so on. This is a simplified model of human cognition, but it serves to demonstrate that bias is an inescapable property of our understanding. Granted, there are still truths that are less wrong than others; the employment of statistics can illustrate this point. Data, if collected in a consistent and non-prejudiced manner, is our best friend when it comes to the battle against misinformation. Incomplete information is one false friend that is the source of our woes. Our arch nemesis however, is the behavior of making an erroneous conclusion in the face of statistics that don’t agree. This is a very interesting psychological process worth investigating. The discord and tension you feel whenever you encounter information that moves in partial or total contradiction to your beliefs is aptly called ‘cognitive dissonance’. It is the protest of your uncomfortable brain waving red flags. As is the nature of most things, dissonance tends toward consonance; a sort of tension and release, or psychological cadence in your mind, this rectification is what is commonly known as the ‘confirmation bias’. As such, one will actively seek information that is congruent to one’s beliefs. Obviously, this isn’t helpful when evaluating information; for extreme examples, consider how it plays a role in forming conclusions such as that the Earth is flat, or that vaccines do more harm than good


The same applies to when some argue immigration in the US is a plight that has contributed to higher crime rates as well as unemployment. After all, immigrant labor as a demographic has occupied jobs most

would prefer not to do, such as working on farm fields or in restaurant kitchens. Statistics have consistently shown that immigration has brought either a net positive effect on growth and development

in the US economy. If one were to continue the immigration argument, it can be argued that all US citizens except for the Native Americans should be extradited, as subsidize a structural change for the socalled unemployed to move out of unsustainable sunset industries, such as those in mining, has been forsaken to build a wall and employ a higher number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers.

succinctly stated in the Jack White’s prose of “Why don’t you kick yourself out, you’re an immigrant too”. Nevertheless, money to

Regardless, the psychological mechanisms that underlie the behavior of politicians are interesting to ponder. One would not be so easily motivated to continue if they didn’t think their actions were just. Evil is in the eye of the beholder, and this is the ‘protagonist’ argument: “I know I am right, and you are wrong”. Now, if societal disposition can be swayed effectively by controlling the information society is exposed to, such as our protagonist, we can consider the implications of this in the context of power. Concentrated groups of power can exist in the form of the military in an authoritarian dictatorship, and major stakeholders in a large corporation. Politicians and leaders use skewed pathosethos-logos argumentation to garner supporters, and most companies as a whole are incentivized to monetize in any way they can, gaining a competitive advantage without taking into account negative externalities.

Moving on from a perspective to the means of knowledge transfer, we can observe how information changes; just like a game of Chinese whispers or Darwinist evolution, the conception of an idea changes when it transfers from person to person. This change exemplifies the feedback loop that was defined earlier. Further changes in our conceptualization are brought when we encounter new information for our brain to compare. This here is a pressure point that can be exploited for our means. What can one do to mitigate the effects of the knowledge bubble? We all can observe the consequences of poor decisions in hindsight, and it would serve better to change our media habits. It certainly doesn’t help that your search engine is tailor-fit by an algorithm (Ahem, Google) that provides search results based on the probability that you will click on them. An obvious way is to expand the bubble by incorporating a multitude of sources when dealing with a particular idea, especially when reading text and looking for news. As much as the Imperial stroll in India is shunned as part of the British history curriculum (Huh, British Raj? Lies! Fake News!), a monistic way of acquainting yourself with news and information will be a bubble-shrinking endeavor.


To What Extent is Capitalism Influenced By Coercion? Fathan Arfie

I

t is no secret that 10% of the world’s population are living in extreme poverty1, nor is it a surprise that the some of the countries harboring these people are under a capitalist system as that is generally the most attractive economic structure. Before delving into the statistics, it is important to ask the question “am I working to get rich, or to prevent poverty? And is it really necessary to work this hard to reach these goals?” It’s important to ask these questions as they make up the basis for our society. If you’re from a middle-class background, the risk of poverty is larger than becoming wealthy as, unlike our aristocratic counterparts, we don’t have a bed of assets to fall onto when misfortunes occur. Therefore, although we don’t want to admit it, the reality for middle to lower class individuals is that we are working out of fear whilst being blinded by the media and consumerism. And this is what builds the foundation of Capitalism.

1.

1“Overview.”

World Bank, www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/over view.

Allen, Markus. “Compare and Contrast Essay Rich and Poor.” Markus Allen's AmazingDiscoveries, myamazingdiscoveries.com/tag/compare-and-contrastessay-rich-and-poor/.

The Background of Capitalism The official definition of capitalism is “an economic and political system in which a country's trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, rather than by the state.” As a result, once the dust begins to settle, and monopolies start to form, someone is always exploited to benefit the top percentage. This is widely apparent as monopolies are here to stay due to their careful methods of consumerism. As a result, the people who work in the corporate


industry and who own small businesses that are competing are coerced into working hard so they don’t get trampled by these beastly monopolies. They are not the only ones coerced into working for survival; the people suffering poverty in third world countries are always forced to work in exploitive industries for multimillionaires. An example of this are the Bangladeshi immigrant workers forced to work in the exploitive nation of Qatar to build their 2020 stadium. The way corporations use this coercion to align with their greed is through threatening with force. One way they do so is by occupying a natural resource and thereby preventing everyone else from using it. As a result, the people of that country do not see any of the money being generated, since the land is privately owned which forces them to work for such corporations in order to feed their families. This then turns into a situation where the corporation uses the workers’ desperation to cut costs as much as possible, as is shown by Nike’s sweatshops where workers are paid little every day. They exploit such desperation by threatening to fire the workers or cutting pay, because unskilled jobs provide many opportunities for other people to occupy the position. Thus, the tactic works well in 3rd world countries where corrupt officials do not establish universal healthcare or unemployment benefits. But of course, we will still keep supporting these monopolies due to consumerism and their dominance over the market. 2.

2“Only

4% of Poor People Become Rich.” Rich Habits Institute, 13 Mar. 2018,

The “Solution” “A simple solution to this is to just work hard” is what many successful people say, however the true percentage of those who make it out of poverty is 20% whilst the other 70% remain poor with 10% unknown 2. Many would refer to current billionaires that make motivational quotes to gain a following, but many of these billionaires have always been rich; take Bill Gates as an example, he was born to wealth. Although we cannot ignore how they used their intellect to get where they are, the reason for their success is having connections and a safeguard. The main way many of the poor try to achieve economic success is the “easy way out.” This includes the creative field, as people inspired by the wealthy try to follow their footsteps of selling music or starring in movies where the industries are more saturated than ever. Furthermore, as they are poor there are no more opportunities left leaving them to face this lifestyle. There are plenty of different reasons for this class divide, one of which is exploitation. As I mentioned before, the wealthy have always used the poor, like how they use soldiers to settle conflicts, or how they use desperate people and give them the false assurance of never becoming poor as long as they work for the wealthy. As a result, it is comparable to running a never-ending track, because the richhabits.net/only-4-of-poor-peoplebecome-rich/.


more they reproduce, the more people will be born into this situation because corrupt governments benefit from the corruption bonus that comes from this system.

Where Corruption Comes Into Play Many of the reasons why the government doesn’t prevent the coercion from happening is that it is widely beneficial to them. From a clueless population, money can be produced faster than ever through stealing from them. An example of this is Sambo Dasuki the former national security advisor of Nigeria. Through his connections and bribing he was able to steal $2bn from the nation with a further $150bn stolen3. This shows how despite all of the atrocities and disadvantages to the public, due to the usefulness of capitalism for the top percentage of the world. Despite all the trade unions being formed to combat it, it is widely ineffective as greed would win.

3O'Grady,

Siobhán. “The Worst Corruption Scandals of 2015.” Foreign Policy, Foreign Policy, 29 Dec.

“$2 Billion Arms Deal.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 2 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/$2_billion_arms_deal.

Conclusion Despite the issues that come with worldwide capitalism, it is important to underline the few benefits that may arise. While ignoring those who are the victims of capitalism, such as the people living in slums in India, The GDP per person has skyrocketed since the industrial revolution, a time where capitalism was widely adopted among wealthy countries. However, the evidence suggests that the top percentage of rich people remain rich through exploiting the fears of poor people, and by using methods of coercion to maintain power.


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